As merchandising goes, it doesn't get much bigger and brassier than Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. If you hadn't already realised you were in huntin', shootin' and fishin' territory, you soon will when you look up and see dioramas of full-sized bears, bison, reindeer and elk above the racks of fishing rods, outdoor apparel and camping gear.
This massive, 150,000 square feet store, located 25km north of Calgary at Rocky View, sells all manner of clothing and equipment for outdoor sports and activities, including boats, all-terrain vehicles and guns.
One of the animal dioramas in Bass Pro Shops' Calgary store
As if the stuffed animals weren't enough to make your retail experience memorable, there is a 15,000 gallon freshwater aquarium in store where, reputedly, the staff will demonstrate how popular their fish bait is with the resident trout, sturgeon and pike. There is also a laser shooting gallery and archery range, where you can hone your skills with some target practise.
If Bass Pro Shops' theme-park feel doesn't appeal, then its wide range of merchandise just might. As well as outdoor and activity-specific clothing for all the family, there is a home décor section, toys, gifts, a 'general store' and Uncle Buck's Fudge Shop where you can buy fudge, sugar-coated almonds, sandwiches, milkshakes and ice-cream.
I went in for a pair of shorts and came out with a pair of shorts – about an hour later, after wandering around the shop looking at all the outdoor paraphernalia and the animals, which take you by surprise around every corner.
The signage in Bass Pro Shops is big and bold and high enough to see almost wherever you are in store, making navigation easy. It is less easy to find each other if you enter the store with a companion and split up, so make sure you take your cell phones with you!
The Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World near Calgary is one of only three in Canada and is located within the Crossiron Mills shopping complex off Highway 2. There are many more stores in the United States of America.